Not really, but the moment someone creates a game where I can do just that, I’ll buy it.
Around the occasional burst of writing and/or voice-over work lately,2 I’ve been playing Gran Turismo 5, which I picked up a couple months ago. I’d been playing Sid Meier’s Pirates on Xbox (which I still think is one of the best swashbuckling video games around) and happened to catch one of the Fast and Furious movies on TV one evening after shutting down the console. I soon felt a need for speed (but not that franchise—I don’t like having to dodge police cars while racing around town: they always catch me. And with Hot Pursuit, when I play the police, the bad guys are always getting away). So, having been a fan of the original, I broke down and picked up a copy of GT5.
I’ve been having fun with the game. True, I’m really bad at racing games and my style of video driving is to set traction as high as it will go and use whatever monster car I can get away with using for the race. Oh, and brakes? What are those? That car, the wall over there, the grass, all do wonders for slowing the car down as it takes corners. Of course, that means I wind up spending money to rebuild the vehicle, but at least with GT5 I can keep racing long after the car would realistically be headed for the scrap heap.3 Of course, after a session of ripping past other cars on the track, slamming head-first into the barrier on the London track (or any of half a dozen others with sharp turns), doing so repeatedly because I just don’t take the corners slow enough (but the monster car allowing me to pull first place anyway) when I go out to run a few errands, the kids often complain, “Dad, this is a van, not a race car!”
Insert evil cackle here.
One of the things I enjoy about GT5 is playing the game while I’m cooking dinner (or picking the kids up from school) since the game allows the player to race (A-Spec) or to run a set of drivers who race for you (B-Spec). It is particularly amusing since I picked up the Red Bull X2011 Prototype (the fastest, most agile, monster of a car in the game) and have had my lowest level drivers racing against opponents driving Honda Civics or maybe a Lotus Elise (or similar) and winning by several minutes. Yes, that goes against the grain of struggling for the win, achieving victory despite having the slowest car in the bunch, and so on, but when I want to play but have something else that I need to be doing at the same time, it helps to put the drivers in a car that allows them to win without any coaching.
The kids often watch while I play. My son has tried driving but dislikes the PS controller. My daughter just likes watching the cars go fast. But one thing I have noticed is they both tend to pay attention to cars on the road and during the first episode of the current season of Top Gear USA (which both my kids love) they saw the cars that Rutledge, Tanner, and Adam were driving and said, “Lamborghini, the really fast car that looks like a Lamborghini, and and the American snake car, whatever it’s called.”
Proud papa moment, and no, I’m not a car person in any way, shape, or form. I just like the video games.
At the same time I purchased GT5, I had also picked up Lord of the Rings: War in the North and, while I like the game, it doesn’t have the same pull for me that GT does. Now my son, on the other hand, loves War in the North because he likes the Middle Earth setting and it’s a two-player game, allowing him to play the game with me.4 I, of course, am running the dwarf while my son is running the ranger. We’ve had fun despite a glitch (or two) where the AI-run elf wizard hangs a couple of areas back and we realize she isn’t with us and have to backtrack, only to have her stay where she is while we press on and cross our fingers that she shows up at the portal for the next area.5 I’ve had a suspension of disbelief problem with the bomb goblins, whatever they’re called. I don’t recall reading anything about TNT-toting goblins in The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, which seem more a Warhammer than a Tolkien motif.6
Anyway, we’re slowly pushing our way through the game while my daughter sits to the side pointing out things we’ve missed (tracks for the ranger to follow, weak areas in the rock for the dwarf to break through, that orc jumping from the behind the rock).7 She seldom wants to play video games (aside from a few on the Nintendo DS), but she is always our best lookout. Maybe we’ll finish it. Maybe not, but we’re having fun with both games.
*OK, maybe in a long straight-away. Any turns in there and the orc would likely dodge the Bugatti, which steers like a “bucket of rocks” as I’ve seen posted on various GT5-related forums.
2Yeah, sure, around is a word, through is another, and even though instead of are two words, they more accurately describe my time spent in front of the console.
3There had been another racing game I’d tried a few years back (may have been the Need for Speed franchise) where, after every race, all the money I’d earned—and then some—was going toward rebuilding my car. Yeah, I know, learn to control the car better. But I drive sensibly in real life. I don’t want to be forced to do so in a video game. In a video game I just want to drive fast.
4I have the gratuitous violence turned off so no geysers of blood when orcs and goblins are cut down though some areas don’t even require the blood to be rather intense.
5So far we’ve been lucky and she has shown up by that time.
6But I could be mistaken since the lotr.wikia indicates there is mention of the goblins possessing dark technology and being fond of explosives in The Hobbit. I’d need to reread the book to verify this.
7When I had Warhammer 40K: Space Marine (which I never I finished), my daughter was the one who got me through most of the areas I completed because she spotted things long before I ever did. Good eyes and good ears.
My son has been playing tennis for four years now and maintains an avid interest in the sport. Not so much that he spends hours watching matches on TV, but he does go to the courts as often as he can get me to take him and at odd times I’ll find him playing slow-motion “shadow tennis” working on backhand and forehand strokes or “tossing” a ball into the air to practice his serve. He’s never held much interest in baseball or football and finds basketball and soccer only partially interesting. So I spend hours at the tennis courts, watching him practice. True, I could drop him off and pick him up later (as quite a few parents do), but my wife and I feel it’s part of our responsibility as parents to be there for our kids’ sports activities.
So this year, my wife and I decided to do more than just support him in the sport and started taking cardio tennis lessons.
Yeah, I know. That’s the same reaction my mom had.
Cardio tennis is tennis supercharged. In other words, you run a bit more (in our case, run rope ladders to work on footwork, which gives you something to do while waiting in line) and you listen to Really Loud Music while you swat the ball over the net. Or try to, at least. I often strike the occasional bird innocently flying overhead. Or get really close.
After the first class back at the beginning of the summer, my son commented that it “was funny watching old people play tennis.”
I showed him proper backhand technique with racquet in hand.
He nimbly dodged out of the way and laughed his way to the car.
Since then, we’ve either gone to every cardio tennis lesson or gone to the courts in the evening just to get in an hour of tennis during the week. My daughter took lessons a couple of years ago and knows what she’s doing, so we all can participate to some extent. It’s fun exercise and it gets us outdoors (and away from the TV) for awhile.
Alas, all things come to an end and with the close of summer and school now back in session (along with half a dozen after school activities), the family outings of tennis will come less frequently. But hope remains that I’ll win the lottery and can have a tennis court squeezed into the backyard.
Note: I was working on this last week and got sidetracked playing video games. Ah, well.
A couple of weeks ago as I sat down to catch up on various TV shows I missed during the last few months, I realized I watch entirely too much TV, boob tube, idiot box, whatever you wish to call it.
I’d written awhile back about Too Many Books* but it wasn’t until I noticed I was behind four or five weeks’ worth of Revolution that I started thinking maybe I should drop something from my watch list. Not that the list is all that long—just three or four hours on Monday, two or three on Tuesday, two more on Wednesday, about four on Thursday, and the same number on Friday. Well, there are a couple of hours’ worth typically on Sunday as well, but who’s counting, right?
Wait. At minimum, I’m looking at nearly twenty hours of TV every week.
And I get on to my kids if they watch more than an hour or so each day.**
Hey, kids, do what your parents say, not what they do.
At one time I could count on programming sticking with the fall through late spring routine with summer repeats, and I would spend time outside for four or five months. Then along came USA Network with their summer line (and Monk). I was hooked and started video taping episodes.*** I think that station single-handedly beat out of me my typical avoidance of the TV during the summer. Oh, that and the summer heat keeping me indoors over the last few years. I used to love being outside in 90-degree weather, garbed in heavy period clothing, stomping around on stage, spouting Shakespeare, and drinking iced tea.
Now, anytime the temperature rises above 80, I’m heading indoors, and still drinking iced tea.
Lately though I’ve been spending more time watching TV (and still reading) than much else. Writing? Nope, well, aside from the occasional post here. Voice-over? Uh-uh, not while the kids are out of school. They do OK to be quiet while I make one recording. Anything longer than thirty minutes and they can’t hold the noise in. Painting those miniatures I received awhile back? Nope, at least not until I get the area around the painting table cleared so I can reach my paints. Drawing? What’s that? Oh, yeah, I used to do that years ago before I went to college. I still have the stuff around here somewhere to do that . . . .
Now, Bob Meyer in Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author indicates he watches TV against all conventional writerly advice, but my guess is that he sits with pen and paper in hand and analyzes what he’s watching, making notes on scenes that work, scenes that don’t work, interesting character ideas, and so forth. I used to do that. OK, I still sit with a pad of paper and pen at my side. Unfortunately, I too often get caught up in the spycraft of Burn Notice or laughing at some quip made by Hank Lawson that I forget to actually write anything. Oh, well.
Recently I received a newsletter from Johnn Four of Gamer-Lifestyle, a game writer course/support group that I’ve been following off-and-on for awhile. I’d noticed there’d been little activity there this last year, and in his newsletter, Johnn Four mentioned he’d been hit with a case of burnout—no gaming, no writing, little else besides watching TV and reading “weird books.” Hmmm, I dropped from gaming with my group about a month ago. I’d decided I just wasn’t having fun playing games at this time. I still read game rules, still ponder tweaks for game systems, but just haven’t gotten back into gaming.**** Maybe the GM Slump is a full-blown case of burnout?
The TV schedule hasn’t let up this summer either. USA Network’s summer line-up is in full swing again (with the new addition of Graceland, which my wife dislikes but I find amusing) and SyFy (I much prefer when it was SciFi—the new logo is goofy) has added Sinbad, a one-season only British import***** which reminds a lot of the old Hercules: Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, shows I think my kids would likely enjoy.
Aside from a few bouts of homeowner angst and painting the outside of the house or doing a bit of yard work, about all I’ve done the last couple of months (aside from shuttle the kids to-and-from various summer activities) is read.
And watch too much TV.
*And I still have a never-ending stack of books that I am working my way through. Some that were on the list then have been finished and others have taken their place. Some still sit near the bottom of the stack(s) scattered throughout the house.
**They usually don’t watch TV during the week and reserve most of that time during the weekend, often switching on the TV and watching one show, then half-watching the next while playing a game, or drawing, or doing something else.
***Yes. And I still have a functioning VCR along with a small stack of movies on tape. I’m slowly tracking down DVD replacements.
****Well, that’s not true. My kids and I played a game of Novus Mundi over Father’s Day weekend then later that week, my son and I played Okko: Legend of the Asagiri, both of which were enjoyable.
*****The production company canceled it after one season for some reason. Too bad. The family and I enjoy this show because it is family friendly.
Oh, my eyes were bleeding!
OK, not really, but it sure felt that way after receiving my Vampire pledge box of Reaper Bones miniatures last week. I was giddy. Christmas in June.
I opened the outer box and this is what greeted me:
My son took one look and said, “That can’t be 200 miniatures.” Then I opened the white box and pulled out the inner plastic bags and laid those on the table.
He still shook his head and went to play video games while I took a few more pictures. I didn’t start counting minis until a day or so later. I was trying to figure out how best to go about it when I ran across this life (and time) saving link, which shows the Vampire pledge level of minis plus gives a list of the optional add-ons with links to larger images of the minis. Now, while there was one noticeable error*the page definitely helped me with the process. It took only a small handful of hours rather than an entire week to wade through the 240-some-odd miniatures in the box.**
My daughter helped open the smaller bags to extract individual miniatures. Once done, we set those on the table to see just how many miniatures were in the box.
Now, overall the miniatures are rather nice. They’re clean sculpts with few blemishes. Several figures look as though they are competing in a limbo tournament and will need some work, but the best thing about the Bones line—no drilling and pinning together disparate parts to put the silly things together. I have several of these minis already in metal but haven’t put them together for just that reason. Of the figures in this pack, the only ones that required any assembly were 3 of the giants and the griffon, but the pieces slotted together easily and it looks like the fusion glue I applied will hold them together without any problems.***
Once I finished with the Bones minis, I went ahead and pulled out the dwarves from the Kickstarter I’d pointed out awhile back and set them in their bases.
I haven’t glued them in nor have I started any work on them. These pieces being metal have a high degree of flash both on the individual figures and on the resin bases.
Here’s an image of the troll figure that came as an addition with the dwarves.
I think both Kickstarters were worth the price. I managed to get some really nice miniatures in both sets. Of course, my wife just looks at them and shakes her head, muttering about the house sinking because of all the minis stored in boxes in the back room.****
But when the waters rise, at least the Bones will float.
*The first mini shown is Danar, male assassin; however, the Bones list link shows an image of Kellen, nobleman adventurer.
**I swapped out the Sophie the succubus on motorcycle Kickstarter exclusive for 4 extra giants (the frost giant king and queen and the fire giant king and queen) and an extra pack of 5 necromancers (can’t have enough wizards raising the dead).
***Sorry, no pics of those minis, either before or after. Oh, well, here’s a close-up of the frost giant king.
****At last count, I had over 3,000 miniatures. Of course, that was made about 20 years ago when I was trying to maintain them on spreadsheet. I have no clue how many minis I have now.